We the people: a layered, patriotic pie to celebrate independence.

It wasn't easy, the road to independence.  Neither is this cake.  But both are worth all the trouble.

This is a layered pie.  I created layered pies as an alternative to the "event cake."  If you want to learn more about them, you can find more recipes and techniques in my book Pie it Forward but for now, let's move forward with this festive wonder.

The interior of this cake is comprised of puff pastry layers, lightened pastry cream and berries.  The top is meringue.  The sides are joconde decor sides.

First, make the puff.  You'll be making more than you need but the technique is a little time consuming, so it's worth having extra in the freezer when you're in an appetizer or dessert bind.

Recipe from Pie it Forward


For the butter block

2 pounds unsalted butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon lemon juice
8 ounces bread flour

For the dough

2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 1/2 pounds all purpose flour
1 3/4 cups water, cold


For the butter block

1.  Combine all the butter block ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer fit with the paddle attachment. Mix until the mixture is smooth.

2.  Transfer the butter to a piece of parchment and form into a 10 x 14 inch rectangle.  Place another piece of parchment on top of the butter and tape the sides and then cover completely with plastic wrap.  If you have a full sheet pan sized piece of parchment, this is how you use it:

Fold the full sized parchment in half and then fold sides about an inch to provide a guide.

Smear the butter into a loose rectangle and then fold the parchment over the butter and fold the edges, along your guide lines, to create a tight little package.  Tape the edges and wrap completely in plastic wrap.

Covered in parchment, taped and covered with plastic wrap.

Using a rolling pin, roll the butter block into a perfect rectangle, making sure to get the butter into the corners and make sure the butter block is level.
Butter block, nice and even.  Keep in a cool place or refrigerate while making the dough.  Make sure that the butter is cool enough that you can easily remove the parchment from the butter without the butter sticking and you are able to pick up the block easily but not so cold that you can't bend the block without it breaking.
For the dough

1.  In the bowl of a stand mixer fit with the dough hook, combine the water, salt, lemon juice and melted butter.  Add the flour and mix on medium low until  you have a very smooth, shiny dough.  The dough will be very soft, just as it should be.  Wrap in plastic wrap and rest for 20 minutes.

To laminate the dough

The process of making puff pastry (and croissant, and danish and kouign amann) is called "lamination."  It's the process of placing a butter block in between layers of dough and folding the two together in multiple "folds" until you have many many (thousands!) of layers.  Hence the French name for the dough, Mille Feuille, a thousand leaves (or layers).

1.  Turn the dough out onto an evenly flours work surface.  Roll into a 16 x 24 inch rectangle.  Make sure the dough doesn't stick to your work surface.

2.  Unwrap your butter block and place on one half of the dough, leaving a border free of about an inch.

Place butter block on to half of the dough, leaving a border naked.
3.  Fold the other half of the dough over the butter block and press along the edges to seal the butter into the dough package.  This is called the "lock in."  Using a rolling pin, roll the dough into a 16 x 24 inch rectangle and trim the edges.

Roll the dough into a rectangle and trim edges.
4.  Start the "letter fold":  Fold one short edge of the dough towards the middle:

5.  Fold the remaining third of dough over the first fold, as if you were folding a business letter (hence the name, "letter fold").

Letter fold complete.

6.   Cover the dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 20 minutes (no more than that) to give it time to rest.  Repeat the letter fold procedure again, 3 more times.  Allow the dough to rest in between each fold for no more than 20 minutes.

Once you've got the puff resting in the fridge, move on to the decor sides.  The recipe and technique is here from an earlier post.

Here's a little visual tutorial on how I used this technique to make flag sides:

This is the tuile portion of the technique.  I divided the tuille paste this way:  I put a 1/4 cup into a pastry bag fit with a small open tip.  Set aside.  I place 1/4 of the remaining tuille into a bowl and dye with 2 drops blue gel food coloring and add about 3 to 4 drops of red food dye to the remaining batter.  I first taped pieces of parchment on the silpat where I knew I'd want my blue field.  I then made my red stripes.  I removed the parchment and piped white stars on the field and then carefully smoothed blue in the empty area around the star.  I cut this strip in half lengthwise to make two 10" tall 6" wide cakes.
All baked!

Make the puff rounds:

Take half of the puff dough and divide it into 8 pieces.  Roll each piece into a rough 7" circle and then trim the circle down to a perfect 6" circle with a very sharp knife.

Place the rounds on a parchment lined sheet pan (you'll probably need two) and bake at 375º for about 10 minutes, until the puff just starts to puff!  Place a piece of parchment over the rounds and place a sheet pan on top of the parchment to weigh down the puff.  It sounds strange but that's how it's down when baking puff for things like Napoleon.  Bake for another 30 minutes or until dark golden brown.  Cool the puff completely.


1 pint strawberries
1 pint blueberries
2 cups heavy cream
pastry cream (recipe below)

Make the pastry cream:


12 egg yolks
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup corn starch
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste
4 cups half and half


1.  Place the yolks, sugar, corn starch, salt and vanilla bean paste in the bowl of a stand mixer fit with the whisk attachment.  Whisk until smooth and pale.

2.  In the meantime, pour the half and half into a large sauce pan and bring to a simmer.  Slowly pour the hot half and half mixture into the whisking egg yolk mixture.  Whisk until combined.

3.  Transfer the mixture back into the saucepan and return to the stovetop and whisk over medium heat, constantly, until it has thickened (about the consistency of ketchup).

4.  Transfer the pastry cream to a large bowl and cover the top completely with plastic wrap and refrigerate until cool (about an hour).

Assemble the cake:

1.  Whip the heavy cream until stiff peaks form.  Stir the cooled pastry cream to loosen and then fold the whipped cream gently into the pastry cream.

2.  Line a 6 inch cake ring with the joconde sides.  Place a puff round at the bottom of the ring and top with a layer of hulled strawberries.  Cover with an even layer of lightened pastry cream, about 1 cup.  Top with another layer of puff and then layer with pastry cream, about 1 1/2 cups.  Place another puff round atop the pastry cream, cover with an even layer of blueberries and then add lightened pastry cream, about 1 1/2 cups.  Add another layer of puff and add just enough lightened pastry cream to reach the top of the joconde sides.  Wrap in plastic wrap and freeze until set, about 2 hours to overnight.


Make meringue


1 cup sugar
1/3 cup water
5 egg whites
pinch salt


1.  In the bowl of a stand mixer fit with the whisk attachment, combine the egg whites and salt.  Whisk until foamy.

2.  In the meantime, combine the sugar and water in a large saucepans and stir over medium low heat until the sugar has completely melted.  Raise the heat to high, attach a candy thermometer and heat the sugar mixture to 234º.

3.  With the mixer running, carefully pour the sugar syrup down the side of the mixing bowl, into the whisking egg whites.  Whisk until you get VERY stiff, white shiny peaks.

4.  Remove the layered pie from the freezer.  Gently warm the sides of the cake ring with a heat gun or blow dryer to release the ring.

5.  Transfer the meringue into a large pastry bag fit with a large open tip.  Pipe spiky dollops of meringue on top of the pie.

6.  Refrigerate for 1 hour to allow the filling to thaw.  Serve immediately.

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